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Musings On UFC Fight Night 26: Shogun Vs Sonnen

UFC Fight Night 26 took place on Saturday at Boston’s TD Garden. What follows are some thoughts on the fight card.

Diego Brandao Doesn’t Answer Questions

When there are questions surrounding a fighter, one of the goals of that fighter should be to answer those questions in a decisive manner. That’s one thing that Diego Brandao did not do on Saturday night in Boston.

Sure, the first round was exciting, and the powerful strikes that Brandao landed showed that he has a high upside, but after that round, well, Brandao left us wondering if he was ever going to learn to fight at a pace that doesn’t leave him gassed. Brandao looked good for the first six minutes or so, but after that, he looked like a guy that just wanted to get a hit off the oxygen tank.

Brandao could do something in the featherweight division, but he has to learn to pace himself. Greg Jackson has another project on his hands with Brandao. Let’s see if Jackson can successfully transform the style of Brandao into one that can allow him to look dominant over the course of three complete rounds.


What Does the Future Hold for Matt Brown?

The last time we saw Matt Brown in the Octagon he walked away with a unanimous decision victory over Daniel Pineda. After the fight, the former WEC featherweight champion told Ariel Helwani that he had toyed with retirement. “It was just something that I’ve been thinking about for the sox months or so. I’m getting near the end.”

Brown decided against stepping away from the fight game, signing a five-fight deal with the UFC. The first fight on that deal was his UFC Fight Night 26 contest against Steven Siler. 50-seconds after that fight began Brown was arguing with referee Yves Lavigne that the knockout victory that was awarded to Siler was not justified, that he could have continued. The stoppage was justified. Brown could not have continued.

Now what? Before the fight, I had said that once thoughts of retirement enter a fighter’s mind a psychological corner has been turned. After that moment, fighters sometimes can’t find their way back around that corner, and thy are no longer all in the game. I expect the soon to be 38-year-old Brown will go back to pondering what his next career step will be following Saturday’s loss.


Too Much Hype?

Heading into fight week, you would have been forgiven if you thought that Conor McGregor was fighting in the main event instead of in a bout that was in the middle of the televised preliminary card.

The UFC staged a full court marketing press behind the young Irish fighter, but was it too much?

McGregor looked dominant in his unanimous decision win over Max Holloway, but was it enough for the fans?

Hardcore fight fans will know that McGregor showed that he will be a future star with his win over a tough and game opponent in Holloway. But what about the casual fans that just listened to the talking points that they had been fed by the UFC? Were they left scratching their heads thinking, well, what happened to the monster that we were promised?

We all know that the UFC is grooming McGregor to be the next big thing, but sometimes these things can’t be forced on a fighter or on the public, sometimes they need to develop on their own. The UFC would be well advised to take a step back, breathe deeply, and let McGregor develop into the star he will be, on his own terms, and in his own time.


Where’s Michael McDonald’s Hype?

Early in the Michael McDonald versus Brad Pickett bout, UFC commentator Joe Rogan mentioned that the main weapons possessed by the two fighters were their hands. That claim was a rare understatement from the normally hyperbolic Rogan.

McDonald showed that, while he’s just 22-years of age, he’s a potential future UFC champion. McDonald blasted Pickett early in the first round, dropping him with heavy strikes on more than one occasion. The only thing that kept the fight from being waved off in the first round was the incredible toughness of Brad Pickett.

Some fighters would have walked to their corner after that round wondering what Pickett’s chin was made of, and if they could finish the resilient Brit. McDonald obviously did not feel those doubts, as he went out and slapped on a triangle choke that left Pickett tapping out in the second stanza.

The win moved McDonald to 16-2. It also left me wondering, just how much of a push the young contender would be receiving from the UFC if he was, let’s say a fighter that was born in Ireland.


When it Goes, it Goes

Joe Lauzon began his professional MMA career in 2004. Over the course of that time, Lauzon has gone 22-9, with each one of those 22 wins coming by way of stoppage. That type of fighting style has earned Lauzon a lot of extra cash in UFC Fight Night Bonus awards, but it’s also put a lot of miles on his 29-year-old body.

Lauzon is in the midst of the worst stretch of his professional career, going 1-3 in his last four fights. By no means has Lauzon looked terrible in any of those losses, but the abuse he has subjected himself over the course of his career may have finally caught up with him. To paraphrase something that UFC president Dana White has said in the past, sometimes you just show up and you don’t have it any more. Has Joe Lauzon reached that point?


End of the Road?

Uriah Hall earned a spot in the final of The Ultimate Fighter 17 by delivering three knockouts that left UFC president Dana White exclaiming via MMAJunkie</a>, “He is without a doubt the most-feared guy coming out of ‘TUF.’ Ever.” Following a loss to Kelvin Gastelum in the fight for the UFC contract the show promises, White changed his tune, claiming that Hall “mentally broke” during that fight.

The UFC decided to give Hall a chance to prove that the loss to Gastelum was an aberration, a bump in the road. Hall squandered that chance.

After Saturday’s loss to John Howard, White said of Hall via MMAJunkie, “If I could take Brad Pickett’s brain and heart and put it inside Uriah Hall’s body, holy s–t there would be some damage done. Uriah Hall has all the physical attributes to be amazing. He’s got speed. He’s got power. He’s just unbelievable. He doesn’t have what it mentally takes to fight here.”

Hall may get another chance to show the UFC that he does belong in the Octagon. If he does get that chance, he will need to get back to being the knockout machine that he was in the early going of TUF. Anything less, and Hall’s UFC career will most likely end surrounded by questions and undelivered promise.


Matt Brown and the ZFG Meter

If there is a fighter that scores high on the ZFG meter (Zero F**** Given) it is Matt Brown. He has one goal when he steps inside the Octagon; end the fight in a violent manner.

If you have any doubt about that, consider the fact that Brown considers the man he faced on Saturday night, Mike Pyle, a friend. That friendship was suspended for 29-seconds in Boston, for that’s all it took for Brown to put Pyle down and out.

The win was Brown’s fourth consecutive knockout in the UFC and fifth in six fights. If the victory doesn’t earn Brown a spot in the top ten in the welterweight division and a shot at a top ten opponent in his next bout, then there’s something very wrong with the UFC’s rankings and matchmaking.

No More ‘Reem?

When the UFC accounting department cuts Alistair Overeem’s check for UFC Fight Night 26 he shouldn’t be surprised if it has a pink slip included in the envelope.

Following a failed drug test, Overeem has been knocked out twice, and has seen his stock with the promotion plummet. Following his loss to Travis Browne on Saturday night, Dana White discussed what’s next for Overeem, “I don’t know. We need to see. These are not the decisions I make tonight.”

If you don’t think Overeem’s salary will be part of those discussions, you haven’t been following the UFC all that long. Overeem took home $285,714.29 following his
loss to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 156. That’s a hefty price to pay for any fighter, let alone one that has been knocked out in his last two fights.


The Unhappiest Victor

Chael Sonnen was impressive in his win over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua on Saturday night, submitting the former UFC light heavyweight champion via guillotine choke at the 4:47 mark of the first round. However, I can’t recall a fighter ever looking less excited by a big victory than Sonnen did after Rua tapped out.

Sonnen sat in front of Rua, bumped heads with his vanquished opponent, walked to his corner to speak to his team, briefly shook hands with UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, and then walked around the Octagon. Not once did Sonnen crack a smile.

The reason for Sonnen’s reserved reaction became evident when Joe Rogan went to speak to him post-fight. Sonnen said, “Tonight’s fight is dedicated to my grandma Natalie, and my friend Elaina who are in a battle much bigger than Shogun and I did tonight. For anybody else that’s had to go through cancer, a thing like that, this is for you.”

It was a surprising moment from the always-on Sonnen, and let fans know that there are things more important than sports.